O's hopes for Irabu, Schilling improve Phillie breaks off talks

Padres intensify search

March 18, 1997|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles' search for one more quality starting pitcher may be alive on two fronts. The club is considered one of the obvious candidates to acquire Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Curt Schilling, and negotiations to acquire the rights to Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu from the San Diego Padres apparently have intensified.

Schilling broke off negotiations with the Phillies yesterday after his agent made a last-ditch attempt to negotiate a three-year, $15 million extension. He can become a free agent at the end of the season, but probably will be traded once the Phillies are convinced he will not agree to resume negotiations.

He might be the perfect fit for the Orioles. Club officials have made no secret of their desire to acquire another quality starter, and Schilling's name has been mentioned on several occasions over the past week. Phillies general manager Lee Thomas said yesterday that he still is in no hurry to trade the former Oriole, but that could change in a hurry if negotiations with agent Jeff Borris do not resume in the next few days.

The tenor of Schilling's comments yesterday left the impression that he is serious about testing free agency at the end of the season. The Phillies' final offer before talks broke down called for a three-year extension worth a guaranteed $9 million with additional guarantees if Schilling pitched a specified number of innings.

"I think they are foolish not to sign me," Schilling said yesterday. "I know they have to make business decisions, but I don't think that they made a good one."

Schilling made it clear in an interview with The Sun last week that he would like to come back to the Orioles, the team that traded him to the Houston Astros in the multi-player deal for first baseman Glenn Davis, but the Cleveland Indians also are expected to make a strong bid to acquire him.

Meanwhile, baseball sources indicated that the Orioles still are making a strong effort to acquire the rights to Irabu, even though he has not yet consented to play for any club other than the New York Yankees.

Despite indications that the Orioles were out of the Irabu sweepstakes, they have been in "frequent" contact with the San Diego Padres in the past week.

Irabu's agent, Don Nomura, recently gave the Padres a list of teams that might be able to sign him -- and the Orioles were on that list -- but Irabu has since re-asserted his desire to play only in New York.

In fact, Nomura has imposed a deadline of today to consummate a Yankees deal, saying he and Irabu are booked on a noon All Nippon Airways flight to Tokyo tomorrow. "We would leave [today], but we couldn't get a flight," Nomura told the Associated Press last night. "The Padres have our letter. They know what to do. [Today's] the deadline. If we don't hear from them, we're leaving."

Nomura referred to a March 11 letter he sent to all major-league clubs in which he wrote that "Hideki has decided that if the Padres do not work out a deal with the Yankees in the next seven days, he will sit out the 1997 season and voluntarily retire in Japan."

Orioles general manager Pat Gillick was not available for comment last night, and Padres president Larry Lucchino refused to specify which teams were still involved in the bidding.

"We're not going to comment on negotiations that may or may not be going on," Lucchino said. "I will say that the Orioles were one of the teams identified by Irabu's agent that they recommended that we talk to."

The Irabu and Schilling situations are not directly related, but the Orioles' minor-league system is not so deep that the club can afford to give up quality prospects for both pitchers. If they do work out a deal for one of the two pitchers, it almost certainly would put an end to trade talks for the other.

Pub Date: 3/18/97

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